Friday, May 21, 2010

...there will your heart be also

What's missing in discussions on the subject of immigration is a tone of compassion. These are our neighbors and, as Arizona is only now discovering, an important part of our workforce and an important part of our lives. You would think we feel an obligation to do a little more than simply say, "Hey, what the hell are you doing here?"

These are neighbors that have left their families and risked their lives to come to the U.S. Millions of them. They aren't coming here for the view. They're not here on vacation. They're not here on a whim. They often had to go through hell to get here and they were willing only because it is the course of last resort.

During the final waves of immigration from Europe, most of us were people of relatively modest means. Our children's favorite toys were marbles and cloth dolls that cost pennies to manufacture and purchase. The immigrants then worked hard for low wages and built themselves up, generation on generation.

Now, one of the biggest arguments I hear about illegal Latino immigrants is how much they are costing us. Don't we have that to spare? Shouldn't we feel an obligation to make it easier for them to build themselves up, generation on generation? Shouldn't we appreciate their hard work? Yes, thousands more low-income people mean a strain on public schools and hospitals and maybe we'll have to pay more in property taxes as a result. Shouldn't we do that? Do our children really need new cell phones and computers and iPods and Wii's and Playstations and whatever the hell else? Are we so protective of our treasure that we have to build an impenetrable wall to guard it against our neighbors? At that point, do we have a functioning community anymore?

The arguments in favor of trying to wall off Mexico somehow, trying to prevent any of those folks from coming in illegally--those arguments have a nationalist fervor. America for Americans. But what it boils down to is simple frustration and greed. Greed for obvious reasons. Frustration because, in Arizona, illegal immigrants account for a large part of out-of-control organized crime. And yes, that can be tied directly to U.S. immigration policy. Toughening the policy might help in the short term--then again, it might not.

The U.S. shares thousands of miles of land border with Mexico. A shared coastline on two shores makes the problem of patrolling that border even tougher. What will help in the long term is making sure that Mexico and the southern U.S. achieve parity in the standard of living. We have a long way to go on that score. We're filthy rich and they're dirt poor. We have opportunity for everyone. They have opportunity for only a meager few. Once a greater parity has been achieved, all this will fade into memory. Like a bad dream.

How do we do that? Well, I suppose it would have to begin with a close look at why NAFTA failed to help Mexico. And then build from there.

[this article was originally posted around noon 5/21/10 and lightly edited at 3:29 p.m. EST.]

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Schnittke: Concerto for Choir

In addition to the choral concert this Saturday I mentioned here yesterday, a rival for your attentions may be the Canticum Novum and the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York performing Alfred Schnittke's Concerto for Choir in a joint concert at 8 p.m. at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, 552 West End Ave. at 87th St., New York City. Harold Rosenbaum, director of Canticum Novum, will conduct this performance.

On Sunday at 3 p.m., Nikolai Kachanov, director of the RCCNY, will conduct the same work with the same ensemble at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, 921 Madison Avenue at 73rd St., New York City. The program for both will also include Arvo Part, Nikolai Golovanov, Yuri Yukachev and others.

Tickets are $15 for students and seniors and $20 for the rest of us. Call 212-279-4200 or visit or for tickets and more information.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Cantori New York in 'Eight Cellos'

Mark Shapiro and Cantori New York present a concert accompanied by an ensemble of eight cellos 8 p.m. Saturday, May 15 at the Church of the Holy Trinity, 316 East 88th St., New York.

Shore-area concert-goers know Dr. Shapiro from his work with the Monmouth Civic Chorus. I have written about and praised the MCC many times but I have yet to make it to a Cantori New York program. It doesn't look like I'll make it to this one either, but the program itself sounds terrific and I wish I could be there.

It's refreshing and tantalizing to see an ensemble of eight cellos touted in a press release that does not include mention of the "Bachianas Brasilieras No. 1" of Villa Lobos. Instead, we have a program entirely of new works by Arvo Pärt, Piotr Moss, Ivan Moody, Erol Gurol and Nicolas Bacri. Vocal soloists will mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway and soprano Ariadne Greif.

Buy tickets to the concert through the group's website or call 212-439-4758 for more information.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

APP on Live Music in New Jersey

An editorial in the Asbury Park Press from May 1 sparked a lively retort from a member of the Monmouth Civic Chorus, printed in the paper the following week as a guest editorial. The writer of the response, Jenni Blumenthal, was ticked that in extolling the virtues of live music in New Jersey the editorial didn't mention any of the local classical groups.

It didn't mention classical music at all in fact, local or otherwise. I suppose as a classical music fan, I should be offended by that. But the fact is, I'm used to it. The Monmouth/Ocean media and general population overlook classical music. It's very difficult to generate an audience for it, even if you're a world-class outfit like the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra or the Opera New Jersey. That's why theaters in Monmouth County aren't even on the radar for groups like Opera New Jersey. That's why the 50-summer run of the Metro Lyric Opera could halt without any public outcry and without attempt to replace it. That's why NJSO now limits its performances here to an educational "Best Of ..." series of one-hour concerts--the NJSO is bending over backward to cultivate an audience because the culture for appreciating classical music just doesn't exist here.

When the media talk about live music, they are generally talking about longtime pop radio celebrities of one stripe or another, names that can fill thousands of seats at a shot. But that's just not who we are musically, nor is it who we want to be. I don't expect everyone to be a classical music and jazz fan. But most of the live music that happens here is in yet another category: hundreds of small local bands that are touring and may exist as a performing unit only for a year or two. But even that rich, vital culture of bands and clubs that host them gets barely a whipser of mention in this APP editorial. Instead the writer mentions only the big theaters and arenas and the acts that can fill them. The most commericial kind of musical experience.

While some current pop stars, like Lady Gaga, make the list, most of the names mentioned by the APP writer are stars in their 60s and 70s who've turned gray playing their hits of 30 years ago. Classical and jazz traditions exist to continually reinvent the past, but pop rock does not. It exists in the moment and then quickly fades into memory. As a group, what these artists have to offer is notalgia for a time when their music was relevant. There's nothing wrong with that. But if we're trumpeting the musical vitality of New Jersey, citing the living dead as an example is hardly the way to go about it.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vicentino, Grandfather of Microtonal Music

Below is a forwarded press release. The notion of "microtonal" music emerged as a response to the standardization of chromaticism in Renaissance Europe. Our musical tradition since that time has been based on the notion of 12 pitches within the octave, derived and defended by theorists using a cycle of intervals of a fifth (produced by the proportion 3:2). Vicentino was one of the earliest historical figures pointing out that there is nothing particularly "natural" or superior in such a limitation. He argued for an adjustment to the system to add in other possible divisions of the octave discussed by ancient Greek theorists, particularly the strange-sounding "enharmonic genus". Johnny Reinhard, also on this program, is one of today's leading proponents of microtonal music and is founder of the American Festival of Microtonal Music. I would love to be able to check out this recital, but I won't be able to make it.
    When: Saturday, May 15th at 8 PM
    Where: Church of St. Luke in the Fields (located at 487 Hudson Street), New York City
    Admission: $12 at the door, $10 for students
    Nicolo Vicentino (1511-1576) was a priest, composer, and music theorist who claimed that with proper support and encouragement he might revive the fabled secrets of ancient Greek music. Written for an a cappella vocal quartet, the piece was composed in the enharmonic genus, a secular Latin motet that sets a prose text in honor of Vicentino’s patron, Cardinal Ippolito d’Este (for whom Palestrina worked as well). Also on the program are works by Ge Ganru, Rami Seo, Sasha Bogdanowitsch, and Johhny Reinhard. The concert debuts the Terpstra synthesizer, along with amplified cello scordatura, Korean Gayageums, and a multitude of homemade instruments.


    Musica prisca caput tenebris modo sustulit altis, 
    Dulcibus ut numeris priscis certain factis, 
    Facta rua, Hyppolite, excelsium super aethera mittat.
    Ancient music of late has raised her head out of darkness, 
    So that, with antique and sweet numbers, to compete with ancient deeds,
    Your great deeds, Hyppolitus, she might send high above the heavens.  

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Missing Paragraphs

The second half of my Asbury Park Press column this week touches on the political stand against teachers taken by the state and by voters in certain districts. Three paragraphs of this discussion got edited out of the print version, purely for reasons of space. But the entirety appears on the website (click to the second page of the article, with the subtitle "In Praise of Teachers"). I strongly urge those of you interested to read it there. According my freelance contract, I don't own those articles and am forbidden from reprinting them, so you'll have to go there.

Undoubtedly though, I will restate those views here at some point, as I just can't seem to keep my mouth shut.